Highlands

Hotel development opportunity arises at Inverness Campus

Campus - hotel plot - markedDevelopers are being invited to register their interest in developing a hotel at Inverness Campus.

Campus owner, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), is promoting a site of around three acres for the development of a business-class hotel with around 120 bedrooms, meeting rooms, bistro, bar and lounge.

Inverness Campus is already home to several public and private sector organisations, including Inverness College UHI, Scotland’s Rural College, Scottish Vet Referrals, Corporate Health International and Aqua Pharma.

There are more than 600 people working there and this figure is expected to rise to around 1300 within five years.

Improved access to leisure, restaurant, café and bar facilities will further enhance the appeal of the Campus to employees, students, visitors and local people. It will also make the site more attractive to potential investors and continue the growth of the commercial sector within the Campus.

One of Scotland’s most innovative projects, the Inverness Campus development is designed to provide a range of academic, research and commercial opportunities, with an emphasis on the life sciences sector.

The provision of a quality hotel and associated facilities is seen as an essential element of the 215-acre development.

Ruaraidh MacNeil, HIE’s Inverness Campus project director, said: “We have been exploring options for a hotel development on Inverness Campus for a number of years now, and are delighted to be able to present this opportunity to the market.

“We are looking for a hotel developer who will embrace the collaborative ethos of the Campus, support local supply chain companies and provide employment and training opportunities, particularly for young or disadvantaged people.”

Commercial real estate firm, GVA, is marketing the hotel site on behalf of HIE and is inviting registers of interest from developers by Friday 17 November.

Plans unveiled for Fort William car wheel plant

Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell MP, and SNP leader in the House of Commons, Ian Blackford MP, dropped in on the GFG Alliance aluminium smelter and hydro power facilities at Fort William on Tuesday

Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell MP, and SNP leader in the House of Commons, Ian Blackford MP, dropped in on the GFG Alliance aluminium smelter and hydro power facilities at Fort William on Tuesday

Industrial group GFG Alliance has unveiled plans to build a new car wheel factory in Fort William.

The new plant, which could get underway next year, will be located next to the town’s aluminium smelter and hydro power facilities, which it acquired in a £330 million deal.

It is expected that the new factory will create 400 jobs.

At a consultation event in Fort William this week, Brian King, director of Lochaber operations, GFG Alliance, said: “We want to get the planning application in by the end of next month. It is ambitious and a push but we are hoping to have approval by the end of March next year and begin construction as soon as possible after that, hopefully in the second quarter of next year.”

It is hoped that the factory could start producing wheels at the start of 2020.

Mr King added: “Initially it was thought that 320 jobs would be created, but as we have got more into detail it is closer to 400. That is just direct jobs. If you take into account the knock on effect, you could probably double that.”

The new factory, in the shadow of Ben Nevis, is being designed to look unobtrusive from above and blend in with the landscape as much as possible.

Richard MacDonald, architect, Keppie Design, said: “We have designed the factory buildings to look like the aluminium ingots (or slabs). The site is pretty visible from Nevis Range and we wanted to break it down.”

There are long term plans for a research and development centre which could design car wheels for the customers.

There will be a second public consultation towards the end of October.

Design approval for revised Inverness Justice Centre

IJC2Work to build Scotland’s first purpose-built justice centre in Inverness is set to start after Highland Council gave the updated design the green light.

The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS) submitted plans for an improved design for Inverness Justice Centre in May, with the final decision on full planning permission granted at September’s meeting of the council’s south planning committee.

With ongoing support and funding from the Scottish Government, SCTS said Reiach & Hall Architects’ updated design is more efficient in the use of accommodation and provides an attractive public space, along with improved access.

IJC1Eric McQueen, SCTS chief executive, said: “Rather than simply a replacement sheriff court building, the justice centre will play a pivotal role in changing victims’, witnesses’ and offenders’ experience of the justice system, while providing high quality secure criminal courts, and flexible accommodation for our civil courts and tribunal users.

“By bringing together the right organisations, we can all focus on problem-solving approaches to reduce reoffending and increase the opportunity for community sentencing, while providing the facilities and technology to remove the need for children to appear in court and in the longer term, digital case management for summary crime.”

The creation of the justice centre has widespread support from across the Scottish Government, the councils in the Highlands and Islands region, justice and third sector organisations, the legal profession and the general public.

IJC3In addition to the direct justice benefits, the location of the justice centre will help transform the surrounding area, with the transfer of Inverness Castle to Highland Council ownership stimulating economic growth for the city as it develops a major tourism attraction.

Construction is planned to begin in Autumn 2017 with contractor Robertson Northern to complete the main building works complete in 2019.

Frank Reid, managing director of Robertson Construction Northern, said: “Today’s decision means we can start work on what will be a significant development for the Scottish justice system and we’re looking forward to bringing this improved design to life over the months ahead.”

Four local authorities to share multi-million pound travel infrastructure funding

Meadows to George Street – Streets for PeopleFive ambitious active travel proposals from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Inverness have been successful in the final judging of the Sustrans Scotland’s Community Links PLUS (CLPLUS) competition.

Run by Sustrans and funded by the Scottish Government, the competition delivers pioneering and game-changing projects which inspire public bodies in Scotland to design better places and spaces for people to live, walk and cycle in for everyday journeys.

After an intensive three-stage process all five shortlisted projects will be awarded a grant of up to 50% of the total project costs, with the grants totalling £22,540,360, from Transport Scotland funds, delivered through Sustrans Scotland.

Each project is expected to begin development within the next two months, with Inverness City Active Travel Network (Highland Council) forecast to be complete by Summer 2020; Walk, Cycle, Live (Stirling Council) and Woodside Mini-Holland (Glasgow City Council) by Summer 2021. Both Meadows to George Street and the West Edinburgh Active Travel Network (Edinburgh City Council) are forecast to be complete by Summer 2022.

The five projects set to be funded are:

Glasgow City Council:  Woodside Mini-Holland

Woodside Mini-Holland

Woodside Mini-Holland

This year’s entry from Glasgow City Council, Woodside Mini-Holland, takes inspiration from transport infrastructure in the Netherlands and proposes to deliver an exemplar cycle friendly neighbourhood in the Woodside community.

Part of the project will include a segregated cycle route along St George’s Road from Charing Cross to Possil Road and will connect to the Sauchiehall Street “Avenue” cycleway that is currently being delivered through the Sauchiehall and Garnethill Regeneration Framework.

The proposal also includes the expansion of the cycle network into the city centre, Great Western Road, Maryhill, Garscube Road and the Forth and Clyde Canal in a bid to encourage cycling as the favoured commuter option.

In addition to the health and wellbeing benefits that the extensive cycle network brings to the surrounding area, the creation of Woodside Mini-Holland will strengthen local economies and increase road safety.

Pedestrian and cycle crossing facilities at St George’s Cross Subway station will also undergo major redesign in order to improve accessibility to the station and surrounding streets.

The City of Edinburgh Council: The West Edinburgh Active Travel Network

The West Edinburgh Active Travel Network

The West Edinburgh Active Travel Network

The West Edinburgh Active Travel Network’ proposes to transform the west of Edinburgh into a high quality Dutch-inspired cycle and pedestrian friendly neighbourhood.

Included in plans is the creation of an attractive, direct and convenient cycling and walking route from the Roseburn area to the major business district of Edinburgh Park. The route will connect popular locations within a cycleable distance of 1-5km.

Destinations along the route include the Edinburgh Napier University and Heriot Watt campuses, the Gyle shopping centre and business park, new housing developments at East Craigs and Cammo, and existing communities Stenhouse, Broomhouse, Saughton, Sighthill and Wester Hailes.

This major overhaul will see one of the most car-dominated parts of Edinburgh transformed into an active travel hotspot.

The City of Edinburgh Council:  Meadows to George Street – Streets for People

Meadows to George Street – Streets for People

Meadows to George Street – Streets for People

The ‘Meadows to George Street – Streets for People’ project proposes to create a direct cycle  link between The Meadows and George Street, as well as the Old and New towns of the city centre along Hanover Street, The Mound, Bank Street, North Bank Street, George IV Bridge and Forrest Road.

The ‘Meadows to George Street’ project will provide a major redesign for walking and cycling in the city, creating safe, coherent and attractive routes through the city centre.

The Highland Council: Inverness City Active Travel Network

Inverness City Active Travel Network

Inverness City Active Travel Network

The ambitious proposal plans to strengthen the Inverness City Active Travel Network that connects all of the city’s communities with the centre, as well as developing seamless and segregated cycle-friendly routes along Millburn Road, Academy Street and the Raigmore Interchange.

The plans propose a major overhaul of Millburn Road with the removal of one lane of general traffic in place of a fully segregated cycle path. A westbound bus lane and footpath will also be introduced, transforming the area into a less congested and pedestrian friendly area. A signalised junction will also become a feature of Millburn Road with separate signals for pedestrians and cyclists.

Academy Street will also undergo a similar transformation with the implementation of a one-way cycle track with buffer zones off the main carriageway behind the parking and loading areas.

The city wide active travel network also plans to create a ramp from the Raigmore Interchange to the Golden Bridge that would see construction of a cycle and pedestrian friendly route to the Inverness Campus.

Stirling Council: Walk, Cycle, Live

Walk, Cycle, Live

Walk, Cycle, Live

The City Boulevard and Cowane Street project compromises of two key active travel routes that will allow Stirling to operate as a sustainable and vibrant city which is attractive to businesses, residents and visitors.

The focal point of the first route, City Boulevard, is to improve the environment and streetscape along the A811 from Dumbarton Road, along Albert Place and Upper Craigs.  Included in this will be the introduction of more generously sized pedestrian routes, creating a boulevard feel and connecting the city centre to the City Park.

Route two proposes to improve the environment and streetscape along Goosecroft Road, Cowane Street and onward to Stirling University. Currently the B8052 forms one of the key routes into Stirling City Centre and priorities vehicles. The project aims to make the road accessible to all users and redesign road crossings in order to improve accessibility. The integrated network would act as a direct link between Stirling City Centre and Stirling Bridge and continue onwards to the communities of Raploch, Cornton, Causewayhead and Bridge of Allan.

Minister for transport Humza Yousaf said: “I am delighted to announce this morning that all five Community Links PLUS shortlisted projects have been successful in securing funding from the Scottish Government.

“The expert panel who evaluated the bids were impressed by the local authorities’ high level of design and innovation. Each bid is entirely worthy of receiving support today and I want to thank the panel, Sustrans and each local authority who took the time to get involved in the award.

“Our ambitious Active Nation initiative is designed to encourage many more of us to make everyday and leisure journeys sustainably – on foot and by bike. To achieve this vision, we are doubling our investment in active travel, from £40 to £80m each year, demonstrating our commitment to make our towns and cities more walking and cycling friendly.

“Through the Community Links PLUS award, people will be able to enjoy new active travel routes and whether it is for commuting or leisure, more people across Scotland will be able to enjoy the benefits of greener and healthier modes of transport.”

Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Climate Week is an opportunity to get more people talking about and taking action on climate change, and I am pleased to be supporting the Community Links Plus active travel project, enabling more people to walk and cycle more often.

“We all have a role to play in taking action on climate change, and this is a fantastic example of how people can reduce their own carbon footprint through using greener modes of travel.”

Sustrans Scotland deputy director for built environment, Daisy Narayanan, said: “Funding all five final projects is a bold step towards a healthier, more sustainable and vibrant Scotland which designs places around the needs of people over vehicular access.

“The Community Links PLUS proposals were so impressive this year that the panel felt strongly that all the five final proposals should become a reality. We thank the Minster for Transport and the Islands for taking the unprecedented step of committing to fund each of the five finalists.

“With the backing of Transport Scotland, Sustrans will now work in partnership with all four local authorities to turn their pioneering visions into reality. These five exemplar projects will demonstrate the wide ranging benefits that well designed places bring, such as boosting footfall for local business, improving the health of local people and creating safer environments that are more pleasant to live in and move through.” 

Archimedes Screw power solution planned for Inverness

Archimedes Screw hyrdo schemeThe Highland Council is planning to install a Hydro Electric Archimedes Screw at Whin Park Lade in Inverness.

The 100KW turbine will control the water flow from the River Ness through to Whin Park and will be able to generate 672,529 KWh, which is equivalent to the power for 150 homes.

The renewable energy project is estimated to generate an income for the council of around £90k to £120k at current prices. The annual operating cost will be in the region of £15k.

The electricity could supply council buildings, and local venues including the Aquadome and the archive centre, generating further savings.

The site of the planned Archimedes Screw hydro scheme at Torvean

The site of the planned Archimedes Screw hydro scheme at Torvean

The installation will be 4.2m in diameter and allow a controlled water flow, as well as providing sufficient screen to protect various species of fish. The turbine is designed to have a low environmental impact.

Chair of the council’s places committee, Councillor Allan Henderson, said: “This modern, innovative project provides an excellent opportunity for the Council to generate income and renewable energy and make savings.

“The Archimedes Screw is a fascinating piece of engineering and technology which in itself should be a feature of significant interest and may hopefully inspire young scientists of tomorrow.”

The Highland Council contracted AMECFW and senior specialist in Archimedean screw hydropower systems, Mannpower Consulting Ltd, to develop the project design.

It is anticipated the planning application for the installation of the Torvean Micro Hydro Scheme Archimedes Screw will be submitted in Winter 2017 and will include consultation with relevant statutory consultees.

New owner for Inverness environmental firm

Lee Quinn

Lee Quinn

An Inverness-based business which specialises in environmental consultancy has been taken over by a new owner in a five figure deal.

Nevis Environmental Ltd has been purchased from Wind Prospect Group Limited by private investor Lee Quinn.

Mr Quinn who is an experienced finance professional and has supported and managed a range of businesses from SMEs to international groups has worked with both Nevis Environmental and Wind Prospect over a number of years as a consultant.

He explained that when the opportunity to buy Nevis Environmental arose, he knew he could help develop the growing company further.

He said: “I have had the pleasure of working with Nevis and Wind Prospect for a number of years. Unfortunately, Wind Prospect is facing some financial difficulty, but there is still huge potential for Nevis Environmental, hence why I took the decision to invest. Nevis has a bright future and I am very pleased to have the opportunity to support and develop it going forward. We have a great team, a fantastic offering and exciting growth plans for the future.”

Mr Quinn added: “I would like to take this opportunity to reassure all of our clients, suppliers and colleagues that we will maintain the same excellent levels of service and professionalism and we look forward to further developing and growing our existing relationships.  In particular, I am looking forward to developing new relationships both within the renewable industry and outside this sector as we demonstrate how Nevis’ excellent track record and depth of experience supports our clients’ interests.”

Kathryn Fraser

Kathryn Fraser

Nevis Environmental Limited which has offices at the Dochfour Business Centre just outside of the Highland capital and also operates from a base in Carlisle are experts in understanding the legal requirements and industry standards when undertaking work subject to environmental planning conditions.

The firm was the first in the field to offer specialist environmental services to the onshore wind sector and has also concentrated on construction and operational monitoring and are specialists in habitat management and reconstruction.

Dr Kathryn Fraser, managing director of the company, said: “We are delighted to be able to make this announcement and to have Lee as the new owner of Nevis Environmental. His investment in the company will help it grow and realise its potential and ensure that it has a strong and prosperous future. There is so much scope for Nevis and with Lee’s support we have no doubt that it will continue to grow and also expand into new markets.”

Highland Council outlines plan for 2,500 new affordable homes by 2022

Margaret Davidson

Margaret Davidson

The Highland Council has agreed a plan which will deliver 500 new affordable homes across the region every year for the next five years.

The proposals were outlined in its five-year council programme which set out a number of strategic goals across five themes: a place to live, a place to learn, a place to thrive, a welcoming place and a redesigned council.

The plan aims to attract more people to make the Highlands their home and encourage younger residents to stay there.

Its key priorities to help achieve this include:

  • Provide homes across the Highlands so that both young and old have a secure roof over their head. The region needs affordable homes for younger generations; housing in areas where attracting professionals is a challenge; and homes where the elderly and vulnerable can be supported to live independently.
  • The council and its partners will aim to build 500 new affordable homes every year for the next five years
  • Improve the quality and condition of the housing stock and minimise fuel poverty.
  • Identify and recognise the unique challenges of living in rural and remote areas of the Highlands and ensure council policies and the provision of services have local people in mind. Work with the Scottish Government to do the same.
  • Encourage growth in all urban centres across the Highlands, whilst balancing and responding to the demands this will have on local infrastructure and services.
  • Work with communities and partners to mitigate against and adapt to climate change whilst raising awareness around sustaining and improving our natural, built and cultural environment

The council will also seek new, faster, and better ways to ensure superfast broadband and digital services are provided to all Highland communities; continue the refurbishment of primary and secondary schools and work with government, HITRANS and others to deliver improvements to key transport links and make the case for additional resources to deliver a much needed infrastructure investment programme throughout the region.

Council leader Margaret Davidson said: “Our Programme builds on the foundations of localism that we have been establishing over recent months. We are committed to devolving more power to areas to make democracy work better for communities.

“This is an exciting and energetic region full of entrepreneurs and we need to build on the undoubted strengths in our communities. Workforce planning is crucial for our future and we must plan to grow our own skilled workforce to meet the needs of tomorrow, with early years provision, support for schools, modern apprenticeships, and supporting and growing job creation and opportunities across the region.

“In tandem with growing jobs and opportunities we need to ensure we have places for people to live and thrive. We have an acute housing need and we will be ambitious with our targets for new homes and encouraging the private sector to join with us in our ambition.”

She added: “There are many risks, mostly fiscal, to the successful outcome of our Programme, but never better opportunities. This programme must have cross-chamber support and the next step is to discuss the detail in a seminar with members and thereafter to engage with our communities and partners in order to deliver the best we can for Highland.”

The news comes as the council agreed its strategic approach to “an uncertain and challenging financial outlook” over the next five years.

Back in June, the council was presented with a financial outlook which identified a potential budget gap of around £160m to fund existing core services, (between £129m and £186m) over the period 2018-2023, based on a number of assumptions, particularly around the anticipated reducing level of Scottish Government Grant funding.

In light of this financial forecast, the council said it “can no longer continue to provide the same services, at the same level, in the same way as before”.

Chair of corporate resources, Cllr Alister Mackinnon, said: “We are committed to becoming as efficient an organisation as possible and have already made substantial savings over the past few years, but such a huge gap cannot be addressed without a significant impact on our residents and service users.

“We aim to work on five key areas to find ways of meeting the gap. We will continue to look for efficiencies, aiming to improve processes and procedures to get the same outputs and outcomes at a reduced cost. Proposals to restructure the council and further reduce management costs is just one example of this.

“However, efficiency on its own will not be enough. We have already agreed we will focus on commercialisation of the council, with the aim of taking a business-like approach and generating income to support core council services.

“We will also need to raise income by introducing new, or increasing existing charges for some services the council provides. I know this is painful and it will not be popular, as we are all used to getting a certain level of service, but we need to recognise that some people can afford to pay more for services which are not statutory or essential. We will explore all options.

“We have already started a process of fundamentally reviewing how the council provides its services to the public through Redesign over the past year £0.5m of savings will come from redesign this year with more in future years.

“We must also look at removing or reducing some services, which, although we want to deliver and we deliver successfully, local authorities do not have an obligation to provide. We need to question can we afford to continue to do this.”

Cllr Mackinnon added: “We have to deliver a balanced budget and this is without a doubt going to be the most difficult financial period that local government has ever experienced.”

NHS Highland confirms timetable for Belford Hospital replacement

Belford HospitalConstruction of a replacement for Belford Hospital in Lochaber is due to get underway in 2020/21, NHS Highland has confirmed.

Indicative funding for the new hospital was included within NHS Highland’s five year capital plan published in March 2017 and will be part of a wider redesign of health and social care services in Lochaber.

Work is underway to prepare an Initial Agreement which will set out the strategic case for the redesign including an outline of the services to be provided. The work is being overseen by a Steering Group which includes local clinical staff, members of the community and elected representatives.

Dr Brian Tregaskis clinical lead for the Belford Hospital and who sits on the steering group, said: “I am pleased that the work to progress the new hospital is underway.  We have excellent and committed staff who are constantly innovating to provide first class quality of care for local people and our many visitors.  Now what we need is a first class facility to match the care we provide

“We are exploring a range of options to provide care both in the hospital and in the community.  The future will see an increase in care provided at home and if people do need to come into hospital it will be for shorter lengths of time.

“There will be inpatient beds, 24/7 medical and nursing cover, A&E, operating theatre, surgery, outpatients, renal and maternity services.  What we are working on is the detail to support making decisions on, for instance, how many beds the hospital requires.”

Highland Council bought land in Fort William at Blar Mhor from Tesco for £2 million in October 2015 and made it available for a new hospital.

Working in collaboration with NHS Highland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, West Highland College UHI and the Scottish Government, the council acted in an enabling role in securing this strategic site for a new hospital and potentially a new science academy for the West Highland College.

Balfour Beatty appointed tier 1 contractor for Highland hospitals

Maxim 7 Balfour Beatty 1hub North Scotland has appointed Balfour Beatty as the main ‘tier 1’ contractor for NHS Highland’s proposed new hospitals in Aviemore and Broadford.

The announcements follow other recent key milestones for the new hospitals with the appointment of the design team and the submission of the pre-planning applications.

As a ‘tier 1’ supplier for hub North Scotland, Balfour Beatty International (North Scotland) will work alongside the project’s design consultants – architectural firms Oberlanders based in Edinburgh and Portree-based Rural Design – who were appointed in June, in conjunction with engineering design firms Waterman Group and Rybka.

The hospitals for Badenoch and Strathspey and for Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross are being produced by hub North Scotland as part of a £30 million design, build, finance and maintain contract for NHS Highland which will see both projects ‘bundled’ to deliver best value.

NHS Highland’s head of estates, Eric Green, said: “NHS Highland is delighted to be working with Balfour Beatty on these exciting projects. We look forward to delivering high-quality facilities that the communities of Badenoch and Strathspey and Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross can be proud of.

“Balfour Beatty have shown a desire to engage communities proactively to ensure that we can maximise the local benefits of these substantial investments during construction and through to operations.”

NHS Highland’s deputy directions of operations for the health board’s Inner Moray Firth operational unit, Georgia Haire, said: “The appointment of Balfour Beatty as the main contractor is another milestone in this project for the Badenoch and Strathspey community.

“Design work for the new Community Hospital is underway, with initial design ideas on display at a public drop in event on Thursday, 5th September. This event is being held in the Aviemore Community centre from 3.30pm-7.30pm and technical representatives will be on hand to answer any queries.”

hub North Scotland’s chief executive, Michael Padzinski, added: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with NHS Highland to develop and deliver these important new facilities for the communities they serve.”

Both hospitals form part of wider redesigns across Badenoch and Strathspey and in Skye, Lochalsh and South West Ross. In Badenoch and Strathspey, the redesign will see the eventual closures of Ian Charles Community Hospital in Grantown-on-Spey and St Vincent’s Hospital in Kingussie.

Meanwhile, the arrangements on Skye will see a new, modern integrated health and social care ‘hub’ in Broadford and a ‘spoke’ facility in Portree with all the inpatient services provided from the ‘hub’.

Legal challenge against new ‘wild land’ wind farm refused

renewables wind farmCountryside campaigners who sought judicial review of a decision to approve plans for a new wind farm in a designated “wild land” area have had their legal challenge dismissed.

Danish billionaire and landowner Anders Povlsen, director of Wildland Limited, which owns the Ben Loyal, Kinloch and Hope and Melness estates, lodged a petition seeking to reduce a decision of the Scottish Ministers to grant consent under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 and deemed planning consent under section 57(2) of the Town & Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 for the Creag Riabhach wind farm on the Altnaharra estate in Sutherland.

However, a judge in the Court of Session ruled that there was “no error of law” in the way ministers reached their decision or in the way they expressed their reasons.

Lord Boyd of Duncansby heard that the proposed development would comprise 22 wind turbines with a maximum tip height of 125 metres and a generating capacity in excess of 50MW, with five of the turbines to be erected within a designated wild land area.

With the exception of the wild land area the site was not subject to any environmental designations, but the immediate and wider surrounding areas included sites of special scientific interest, a special area of conservation, special protection areas, national scenic areas and special landscape areas.

In accordance with their obligations under schedule 8 to the Electricity Act and the Electricity (Applications for Consent) Regulations 1990, Scottish Ministers were required to notify the local planning authority, the Highland Council and consult with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).

The petitioner objected to the proposal, as did SNH and the John Muir Trust, but the council decided not to object following a report to it by its Head of Planning and Building Standards.

The decision letter, which recorded the details of the proposal, the application history and the decision not to hold a public inquiry, stated “that significant impacts on the physical attributes of the wild land area will be limited in extent relative to the scale of the wild land areas” and that the effects on the wild land area could not be overcome by further re-design or re-siting of the turbines.

It was also acknowledged that the siting of the five turbines in the wild land area ran “contrary” to particular planning policies, but taking into account the contribution to renewable energy targets and net economic benefits, the ministers concluded that in the circumstances and in the context of the competing policy considerations the “balance of benefit is in favour of the grant of consent”.

The petitioner argued that the Scottish Ministers “failed to give proper adequate and intelligible reasons”, first, in respect of the rejection of SNH’s advice in respect of landscape and visual impact, and secondly, in relation to the special protection to be afforded to areas of wild land and the circumstances in which development was acceptable.

But the judge dismissed the petition after ruling that it could not be that the decision failed to leave the informed reader, and the court, in no real and substantial doubt as to what the reasons for the decision were and the material considerations which were taken into account in reaching it.

Lord Boyd of Duncansby said: “In my opinion, looking at the letter as a whole it cannot be said that Scottish ministers have failed to give proper, adequate and intelligible reasons for reaching their conclusion in respect of landscape and visual impact.

“The fact that ministers have preferred the views and opinion of the council to those of SNH cannot be a matter of criticism, provided that ministers have given proper, adequate and intelligible reasons in reaching their decision.

“Given the relatively brief nature of the advice from SNH, the fact that their views were taken into account in the council’s appraisal, the comprehensive nature of that appraisal and the clear and cogent terms of the decision letter I am not satisfied that there was in this case any obligation to separately set out reasons for not accepting the advice from SNH.”

This was the first time that permission had been granted for commercial scale wind turbines within wild land and SNH submitted that ministers failed to consider the “negative effect” of the development and argued that there was a need for “consistency” in decision-making.

But the judge said the issue was “not whether the decision was inconsistent with another decision but whether the respondent had left out of account a material consideration”.

He continued: “Apart from pointing out that the earlier decisions were refusals and that this was the first one where permission had been granted, where there had been considerations of wild land, the petitioners have not put forward any particular reason for suggesting that these decisions were material considerations in this case.”

The developments were of different sizes, in different locations, each with their own location specific issues and environmental statements and the potential impact on wild land and the potential benefits of the developments “will differ one from the other”.

The judge said: “It is not for the court to make assessments as to why decisions on individual applications might reach different results. These are planning judgments for ministers on the facts of each case applying the policy in force at the time.”

In his written opinion, Lord Boyd concluded: “The reasons for granting permission are set out at length in the decision letter. Ministers acknowledged the conflict with wild land policy, limited as it was, and struck a balance with other competing policies. In doing so they appraised the negative impacts against the benefits they perceived flowing from the development. Having gone through that process, Ministers reached a planning judgement taking into account all material considerations.

“In my opinion, there is no error of law either in the way in which they reached their decision or expressing their reasons for it. In short the petitioners’ position appears to be that no windfarm development whatsoever should be allowed on designated wild land areas. That may be, but that is a political decision and not one for the courts.”